I am privileged to interview Nancy Jardine today, yet another talented author from the Crooked Cat cradle. I have read two of her books and loved them both, for different reasons. You can see my review of Topaz Eyes HERE.
Topaz Eyes and The Beltane Choice are very differently styled books. Have you any tips for producing work in such a variety of genres? Can you “switch” on the ambiance of a story, or do you have to wait for the muse?
Great questions there, Jane. All of my novels are different in style and in intended outcomes. While waiting for my historical –The Beltane Choice- to be accepted by a publisher I tried writing a contemporary novel. That first one turned out to be a highly sensual romance-Monogamy Twist– but it’s also my first ‘ancestral mystery’. Waiting for ‘the muse’ fits very well since that book transpired from my watching a new Dickens serial on TV whilst I was first dabbling in my own ancestry researches. Monogamy Twist is my version of a Dickensian bequest of a slightly dilapidated English manor house. So, the muse might originally have been ‘Dickens’ himself. Topaz Eyes resulted since I loved the ancestral aspects of Monogamy Twist so much I wanted to create a much more complex family tree structure in a contemporary novel which had a deeper mystery- in fact a mystery within a mystery, and which had a lot more intrigue and greedy dark elements. Take Me Now is what I call a corporate sabotage mystery but it was intended as a fun sensual romp, the degree of sensuality necessary to have it published by The Wild Rose Press. Many readers of romance seem to love a highland hero- but my highland hero in Take Me Now is almost ‘tongue in cheek’, the story transpiring from my own experience in flying in a seaplane over the west coast of Scotland. You could say that in my novels I’ve attempted to introduce elements of: romance; danger; intrigue; mystery; adventure; even death; and history in some form- the mixture of those different in each novel.
You’re a girl after my own heart when it comes to travelling. What is your favourite destination?
No favourites, I like too many. I’ve been very fortunate to have travelled to many places purely because my husband was working there for either a short or a longer time. Being confined to travelling during school holidays sometimes meant visiting places at the wrong time of year but that often made the trip very memorable. A Christmas /New Year trip to Calgary, Canada, meant temperatures of – 34 deg C. The scenery at Banff Springs was nose biting and hair-raisingly spectacular but it was so cold even the polar bears were inside at the zoo! It was also so cold our ski package was cancelled (below -27 deg C meant the tows/chairlifts etc weren’t working). A summer holiday in the Gulf States meant temps of + 45 deg C. Wadi driving and camel trekking was pretty uncomfortable, but we managed to do some. I’m very partial to European destinations, though, and love so many different cities for varying reasons.
You say that locations in your novels have been inspired by far-flung places. What do you look for first when you visit a new place?
In 2011 I went to the Malaga area for the first time. I honestly wasn’t noting all the multitude of white concrete apartments, but I did love our trips to the old town areas, and our drives into the mountains. That will definitely be worth writing about. The ambience of some of the little town squares that weren’t too touristy was fantastic; the smells; the colour- all made an impact. I now look more at the locals than before with a different ‘eye’.
In Dec 2009 I made a three week pre-Xmas into the New Year ‘immediate family road trip’ from Los Gatos, near San Francisco, all the way up to Vancouver, BC, that was absolutely fantastic and so varied. We rode in a Dodge people carrier, stopping off at a different motel each night. We squeezed in the most amazing places during the day, places we’d all had fun agreeing on while planning the trip. I’m lucky that my daughters and their spouses love the same kind of experiences and we all had a ball. I nearly killed one of my sons-in-law while driving a snow mobile at Whistler, Vancouver …but that’s another story! It was a fantastic time and I have so many notes and photographs that I’ll translate it into a novel sometime in the future.
“Nancy has published 50 novels in the last year alone.” Is that true – or a typo in “The Advertiser” of 3rd May, featured on your website?
Sadly so not true, Jane. The local paper has published an apology for the mistake after I contacted them. I’m guessing that the reporter mixed up the fact that I’d created 50 copies of the ‘Loco Works Teacher’s Historical Resource Pack’ that I created for Aberdeenshire Schools back in 1999. Or it may have been something to do with the fact that when I wrote the School History Book for Kintore School- ‘a squeel at kintore fir monie a year’ – 300 were sold on the school open day and I had to order anther 50. Sadly absolutely all profits of those two projects went to school coffers and not mine! Between Aug 2011 and Dec 2012 I did manage to have 4 novels published and am pretty proud of that.
How did you find your publishers?
Having had The Beltane Choice rejected by one of the ‘big’ publishers (after more than a year of waiting) I looked at the internet for e-book publishers who were accepting unagented submissions. I found The Wild Rose Press (New York Basin) and sent it off to their historical editors. They replied within a few weeks but also rejected it-however, they did give me lots of advice on how to improve it. They were so helpful I sent Monogamy Twist to The Wild Rose Press contemporary editors who immediately accepted it. They also pounced on Take Me Now. During the time I was waiting for the publishing dates for those two contemporary romances I joined a yahoo loop for authors of The Wild Rose Press. While scanning the emails I saw a reference about a new publisher called Crooked Cat Publishing which had just started up in Edinburgh. By then I had redone The Beltane Choice. I sent it to Crooked Cat Publishing and it was accepted by them in early in 2012.
Tell us about the books you like to take on holiday – do you use a kindle?
I’ve got a basic kindle. Though I always like to be sure and tend to have a paperback in case my kindle battery runs dry. Years ago I read anything and everything as an escape from the reading I needed to do for my teaching. Between 2005 and 2012 I would say that dropped off to mainly reading romances (to find out what was being published *wink, wink*) I’m now more eclectic again, but my reading time is severely limited. Sadly, my TBR pile on my kindle is huge and I’m only slowly clearing it.
You say that you’ve recently been reading many more genres. Have you discovered a new one that you specially – or surprisingly – enjoy?
Yes and no. I’ve enjoyed reading the cosy whodunits and the crime novels that Crooked Cat has been producing. As a teenager I read a lot of ‘Miss Marple and Poirot’ type novels so, I guess, that’s me reverting back to type. Vampire novels don’t usually appeal but I recently enjoyed ‘Soul Taker’ by Karen Michelle Nutt. I occasionally enjoy a chick-lit book and found ‘Tracy’s Hot Mail’ by T.A. Belshaw absolutely hilarious. The YA and chick-lit multiple POV books I’ve read recently have been quick reads which has appealed to me when my time for reading is short. Though, having said that, I don’t really enjoy novellas as much a full length books – which is stupid – since I should enjoy them more when reading time is scarce.
What are your criteria for a good read?
If I’m tired I want an easy read that challenges me enough, but doesn’t frustrate. Otherwise I really appreciate a novel that’s well written, well edited and has a good storyline. I get really annoyed by spelling/ grammatical errors- the teacher still in me, I suppose. I like an ending that satisfies but it doesn’t have to be a happy ever after. I’m honest enough to say that I don’t enjoy work that’s too unusual and sometimes I wonder why a highly rated novel gets the acclaim it often does. I struggled to read The Lovely Bones- though at the time it was so popular.
You are a fascinating lady, and a woman of many parts. What do you most prefer doing?
I love my time with my granddaughter a couple of days a week. She is a total joy and the rapid rate of her learning is so inspiring. I mostly like tending my large garden but it’s sometimes a chore since some jobs can’t be done with a toddler around, though she is an outdoors girl. The weather can be a bind at times as well. As I write this it’s sunny outside and I should be cutting the grass (not done yet this week). That’s a two hour job so I’ll just have to hope it’s still sunny when I’ve completed this for you. The problem then will be that this is meant to be a writing day and my current writing is going so slowly. I would prefer to find better ways to fit more reading in to my day but haven’t managed that yet. I really want to finish the two novels I’ve got on the work table!
Did you ever day-dream?
When I was between 7 and 10 years old I devoured books and comics and wanted to be ‘a Sandra of the Secret Ballet’ ballerina. Since I couldn’t dance for toffee I stuck to reading and other pursuits like Brownies, Girl Guides and the choir (can’t sing either). As a teenager day-dreaming was more of the type of ‘I wish my exams were over so that I can do all my other hobbies’. Achieving my Queen’s Guide Badge during the late 1960s meant a lot of work, and I played a lot of sports after school. I also used to knit Aran sweaters, watch TV and read a book at the same time. (Truly – things like War and Peace/Gone with the Wind) My day-dreams are now filled with how the heck did I do all of that?
What lovely questions, Jane, and my apologies for waxing lyrical. Thank you for inviting me to be interviewed.
Nancy can be contacted at:
Twitter @nansjar http://about.me/nancyjardine